Stormwater Quality

Stormwater can be harmful to our water because of the pollution it picks up as it flows over hard, impervious surfaces. Cities with large populations, like Durham, are required to have a federal permit to discharge stormwater into creeks and streams.

This federal permit requires the City to have a program to keep stormwater as clean as possible. This permit is called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit. It helps protect local water so it can be used for drinking, fishing, and swimming.

Durham was issued its first NPDES permit in 1995. The Water Quality unit of Public Works carries out many parts of the City’s stormwater management program. Read on for more information. 
Monitoring Local
Water Bodies

Stormwater Services tracks the health of our surface water. Staff records physical and chemical traits at 30-35 stream sites in the city. This gives a snapshot of the health of the streams.

Aquatic insects, crayfish, mussels, and snails are also collected at 10-15 sites. These animals are constantly exposed to pollution in the stream.

Because of this, their variety can be used to learn about long-term water quality. When animals that cannot tolerate pollution are missing from the stream, it can be a sign of trouble.

Monitoring helps identify areas with problems. Investigating these problems and fixing them can make a big difference in our water quality.

Jon B Sampling Water Quality
Finding & Stopping Illegal Sources of Pollution
Water quality staff investigates when someone reports a water pollution problem. Examples of problems include oil poured into storm drains and leaking sanitary sewer pipes.

Sewage leaks can be a major source of pollution in urban areas. It is important for residents to provide extra eyes, ears, and noses to help get rid of pollution. Anyone in Durham can call 919-560-SWIM to report water pollution.
Water Quality Check

Outfall Screening
Staff also investigates water flowing through the storm drain system when it has not rained. Since nothing other than rain should be in the system, this water is often a sign of illegal pollution. 

Staff tests these dry weather flows for evidence of pollution. This process is called outfall screening. Each winter, one watershed is the focus of outfall screening. This year staff found more than 30 pollution sources during outfall screening.

These steps help keep pollution out of our water. Anything other than rain in the storm drain system is illegal in Durham.
Preventing Water Pollution
Many everyday actions can affect water quality. We teach Durham residents and businesses about these actions to prevent water pollution. The city also provides other ways for residents and businesses to help like storm drain labeling and stream cleanups.

There are many pollution prevention programs such as household hazardous waste collection, street sweeping, and industrial inspections. All of these efforts help protect our water.
Recycling Oil
Stream restoration projects, stormwater control measures, and water quality improvement plans are also part of the stormwater management plan.

All of these activities are carried out so clean water will be available both now and in the future. Find out more about these projects and where they are located in Durham’s watersheds.